Kibbitz Cover Girl: Sophie Okonedo

Yes, Sophie Okonedo is black and Jewish – and no, we couldn’t fit everyone into our Black Issue (Jan/Feb ’07), though not for lack of trying. Her Nigerian father and white Jewish mother split when Okonedo was young, and she and her mother moved into the “council housing” of London (on this side of the pond, we call those the projects). Okonedo told Newsweek that a government official once came to their door and wondered why a public housing apartment would have so many books inside. Luckily for Okonedo, those books may have sparked her interest in the writing workshop that started her career.

Apparently, Okonedo was better at dramatic readings than penning her own works, and her writing teacher encouraged the acting bug. He had the right idea; Okonedo soon landed a choice scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, sparking a stage career that started with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her screen acting is not so shabby either; she was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her starring turn in Hotel Rwanda. From public housing to Academy Award nominee, Okonedo’s career sounds crazy enough to be a movie in its own right.

But that will have to wait, since Okonedo appears on the big screen this month in The Martian Child, with another one of our tribe favorites, Amanda Peet. She also has three other films in production this year. But don’t get too excited. Okonedo has said that she can’t go more than a year without returning to her theater roots. That’s great, if you have a flat (or perhaps a council house) in London. The rest of us will just have to get our Okonedo fill at the movies, since the second annual AJL Black Issue is still oh-so-far away.

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